Seniors brooding after ban on portable air conditioners in care homes

As Nova Scotia faces an unusually hot summer, Wayne King says a lack of air conditioning in rooms at a county long-term care facility is dangerous for residents and staff.

King told CBC Radios Information morning on Friday, he learned from an administrator at the Musquodoboit Valley Home for Special Care in Middle Musquodoboit, NS, that a recently released “guideline” banned the use of window-installed air conditioning units in residents’ rooms.

However, Nova Scotia Health says the facility is currently unable to install air conditioning while an electrical assessment is in progress.

“A lot of the residents use window AC units and now they just rely on fans and some extra hydration, I think,” King said. “The hallways, the residents’ rooms, are all very warm on days like this where it gets windy [the] mid thirties.”

The facility does not have a central heating or cooling system, he added.

Concerns about spreading germs

King said his brother, Tim, has lived in the facility for three and a half years. During his first summer at Musquodoboit Valley Home, a window air conditioner was purchased for his brother’s room and used for the following summers.

But in late July, after Environment Canada announced a heat wave in the area, King learned from a facility manager that the window unit was not to be used due to infection control concerns.

“I have no problem with infection control and making such statements,” King said, “the problem I have is that there is no alternative plan and no explanation to any of the families, to the best of my knowledge that this is it.” case.”

Nova Scotia Health spokesman John Gillis said Musquodoboit Valley Home, Sutherland Harris Memorial Hospital, South Cumberland Community Care Center and Bayview Memorial Health Center all use heat pumps in common areas and do not have air conditioning in residents’ individual rooms. Taigh Solas and Northside General Hospital 4 East also lack refrigeration, he added.

Nova Scotia Health’s infection prevention and control recommendations for long-term care facilities say facilities should not use “portable air conditioning in rooms with residents.”

The precautions “help limit the spread of germs (such as germs that can cause COVID-19, pneumonia, flu and whooping cough) through tiny droplets caused by coughing or sneezing,” according to a Nova Scotia Health document.

Gillis said Musquodoboit Valley Home will not be able to install additional air conditioning units until an electrical assessment, which is underway, is completed. He also wrote that all portable air conditioners must be on a “dedicated electrical unit” and that window ACs can be a fire hazard.

Gillis said portable air conditioners should have a filter, be easy to clean and meet safety standards, including around spreading germs.

“The infection control team has published a number of recommendations, including those regarding the use of portable fans, air conditioners and purifiers after the start of the pandemic in 2020,” Gillis added. “They are regularly reviewed and updated. The most recent review of that document was on July 29, but it hasn’t changed since 2020.”

CBC News contacted Musquodoboit Valley Home directly but was instructed to speak to Nova Scotia Health.

This is because Nova Scotia has faced multiple heat warnings from Environment Canada. The federal agency reported maximum temperatures across the province of 29 to 34 degrees last week. King said the area around the Musquodoboit Valley gets particularly warm during the summers.

King said he had previously contacted Prime Minister Tim Houston, Secretary of Long-term Care Barbara Adams and Secretary of Health Michelle Thompson by email, but received only automatic replies.

“If they can at least provide a short-term solution to keep the residents comfortable, and then start working on long-term plans to maybe install HVAC systems in the facilities that don’t, I think that would be a big help.”

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